The 2019 Polar Vortex was estimated to plunge approximately three-quarters of the American People into sub-freezing temperatures. The arctic air mass has been billed as the largest and coldest cold weather outbreak in a generation. Although there are inhabited parts of the world that experience far harsher weather conditions on a more regular basis, the record-breaking cold has forced an influential segment of the human population to confront weather conditions that they can normally avoid by simply going inside their heated homes, businesses, and cars. For a majority of Americans, the dangers of extreme temperatures largely create inconveniences, despite their life-threatening nature. Unfortunately, vulnerable populations like the homeless have few options to cope with the cold, especially when shelters are not accessible to them. In many respects, the impact of the 2019 Polar Vortex constitutes a national emergency. Because it affects those who often lack a voice, however, the suffering of those it impacts the most will largely be ignored.
The longest government shutdown in US history was suspended when US President Donald Trump agreed to sign a continuing resolution that would allow the Federal government to operate for three weeks. Those critical of Mr. Trump have framed the President’s decision as a victory for House Leader Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats. Having blocked the President from giving his second State of the Union Address on the traditional date, it appears Mr. Trump may well have capitulated over the negative connotations to his Presidency and legacy that will be associated with his delayed Congressional address for the rest of history. It certainly seems Pelosi capitalized on some kind of leverage she had over the President. Trump and his defenders, however, have tried to frame his capitulation as a short-term strategic loss and compassionate compromise. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. One thing is for certain: the underlying power struggle is far from over. The real question is how much damage will US leaders inflict on their constituents.
South America is a place of extremes. It is a region ruled by Right-wing and Left-wing governments. It is a land where both radical socialists and radical capitalists fight for political power, among others. The Venezuelan political and economic crisis, which has been festering since the 2013 death of once-beloved leader Hugo Chavez, is in the spotlight once again thanks to President Nicolas Maduro’s latest move to further undermine democracy by rewriting the Venezuelan Constitution and opposition leader Juan Guaido’s declaration that he is now Brazil’s interim President. With the blessing of almost every American country, Guaido’s move has gained international credibility despite his equally dubious claim to power. It is a clear crisis for democracy and proper governance where true democratic institutions are absent. The political ramifications are, however, largely irrelevant due to the reality of the dire financial circumstances faced by Venezuelans since the collapse of oil prices and their costly social welfare system.
President Donald Trump finds himself in, at least, two major standoffs with serious economic implications. Domestically, the US President faces a prolonged government shutdown over border wall funding. It is a situation that hurts Federal workers and contractors as well as the many communities with local economies fueled by government spending. It is also a situation that could push the United States economy into recession. Internationally, Trump is embroiled in a trade war with a major focus on China. It is a situation that could slow the US, Chinese, and global economies. Having opened two war fronts, Trump needs to resolve one situation in order to give himself the leverage to achieve certain victory in the other. While the relatively trivial nature of the Trump border wall and the lack of economic gain for Americans should drive him to yield on the border wall, he may well be more inclined to reach a compromise with China in order to focus on the border wall.
The US government shutdown over border wall funding was initially characterized as a sort of Winston Church Hill moment by US President Donald Trump and his supporters. They tried to frame Illegal immigrants as ruthless, oppressive invaders and the open border as one of the greatest threats to US security in American history. Trump was cast as a heroic leader and savior who was willing to take action when no one else would. The attempt, of course, largely failed, because the threat posed by an open border is hardly imminent, new, or anywhere near as dangerous as suggested by Trump allies. The American People do not seem to believe Trump’s border wall, which would likely do little to stem the flow of illegal entries into the US, is worth the cost of a government shutdown. Trump’s allies have now attempted to remold Trump’s unwillingness to succumb to political pressure as the struggle of a civil rights leader by comparing his resistance to that of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. The development raises important questions about what makes great leaders like MLK so great. It is something that needs to be better understood by the American People and the many Peoples of the world.
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